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Apostrophe's convert to question marks

Posted on 2007-03-19
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-12-24
When creating a document in Word, and then transferring it to FrontPage and then to the web, my apostrophe's, quotes and dashes always display with crazy symbols (like ?'s). How can I prevent this?
Question by:JLohman
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LVL 38

Accepted Solution

Shift-3 earned 1000 total points
ID: 18753091
Judging by the way you're misusing apostrophes it might be better if you omitted them entirely.

If you must though, the answer probably lies in the fact that Word automatically substitutes nonstandard curly quotes and dashes as you type.  The easiest solution is to go to Tools|AutoCorrect Options|AutoFormat As You Type and uncheck all the boxes under the "Replace as you type" heading.

Author Comment

ID: 18754138
That did it. Thanks.
LVL 26

Expert Comment

by:David Brugge
ID: 18761226
I won’t waste time on a critical dissertation on Shift-3’s grammatical structure. I’m sure that when he examines what he wrote he will blush with shame. You have used the prime (‘) symbol in place of the apostrophe. This is hardly a crime.* This has been the accepted usage for more than a century because the common typewriter, first made by the Remington firearms company had no apostrophe and the prime was the logical substitution, just as there was no open or close quotation marks and the double prime (“) mark was used for both. The teletype machine followed the typewriter’s styling and used the same punctuation. Early computers often used the teletype machine for input and it was a logical progression that the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ascii) included 95 printable characters adopted from the typewriter.
One of the earliest commercial uses of computers for setting digital type. Electronic fonts were designed with extended character sets that included what we sometimes refer to as curly quotes. Entering type through the keyboard required a special keystroke combination that would result in the correct apostrophe or quotation mark appearing when the file was output to film.
It was not until Apple teamed up with Adobe that we had curly quotes and apostrophe marks appearing on the screen. Because these marks were not part of the ascii 95 printable characters, software developers were free to assign whatever number they wanted to these extra characters. Apple assigned one number, IBM the other. (I can’t find my ancient copies of Apple or IBM character code charts) To type a typographer’s apostrophe on an Apple, you have to type the option-shift-right bracket key. On the PC, it’s set by holding down the alt key while typing 0146 on the keypad.
Problems arise when text written on one system are displayed on another system. Programs like Microsoft Word do a good job translating from one machine to another, but translating on the web is a different matter. HTML does not recognize either one. Instead, it will substitute a question mark or a bar mark or some other mark (depending on the browser) if some mark other than the ascii 95 are used.
Enter Unicode: Recognizing that the whole world does not limit itself to the 95 characters ascii developed a new code (ASCII ISO 8859-1) Among its many uses is the insertion of the extended character set into your copy. Here is a link to the extended set and their Unicode designators:

Using this, you replace all uses of ‘ with the code & #39 (except without the space between the & and the #) Most web development software will take your copy that has embedded quotes and apostrophes and convert it for you. I am not familiar with Front Page to know if it does it for you. Nevertheless, you can do a universal search and replace to change your copy if you like. It can be a great deal of work, and if you are displaying in a sans serif type face, it will hardly be noticed. But if you use a serif font, like Times, then it give your page a polished, professional look.

David B.

*For a dissertation on the use of the Apostrophe to make a plural of single letters see: Their opinion is that the question mark would not need an apostrophe but I and many others disagree. You will find plenty of support for ?’s as well as ?s.
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LVL 38

Expert Comment

ID: 18761537
I applaud you, D_Brugge, for rigorously dissecting every facet of this issue except for that which was the actual point of my first sentence.

The shame has not hit me yet, but I am sure it is approaching stealthily.  Shame is creepy like that.

Author Comment

ID: 18762194
Thanks for the explaination, David B. The solution Shift-3 passed along did the job.
LVL 26

Expert Comment

by:David Brugge
ID: 18766194
> The solution Shift-3 passed along did the job.

As usual, my message is obsucred by endless babble. Here's the point. Macintoshs put apostrophe marks on the screen using one code (the shortcut is option-shift-right bracket key), PCs use another. One machine does not recognize the other's code and HTML doesn't recognize either.
Shift-3's solution is correct in that your software is automaticly embedding the code that is not recognized by HTML. He offered a solution that will prevent your woed processor from putting actual aprostrophies into your copy, but instead insert the "prime" mark, that is, the "typewriter" style apostrophe.
My longwinded explination was about how to force your HTML page to show actual apostrophies as well as "curly" quotes and a host of other marks not available with the 95 ascii keys.
Where I believe that I was misunderstood is that after setting your word processor to give you prime marks instead of apostrophies (which is the easiest way to get copy for a web page) if you use the shortcut keys that I described, you will be defeating the settings that Shift-3 told you about and you will be back where you started.
My advice....ignore everything that I have said. Take Shift-3's advice and get your copy on the web in a clean, neat way. Later, if you want visitors see curly quotes and curly aprostrophies on your web page reread my post.

Sorry for the confusion,

David B

Author Comment

ID: 18766654
I understand. Thanks. (Aren't computers great?)

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